A Momentary Flow

Updating Worldviews one World at a time

Harness randomness to succeed at life
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THE American mathematician Claude Shannon was renowned as the father of information theory. But his colleagues at Bell Labs also knew him as a unicyclist, a juggler and the designer of an electromechanical mind-reading machine. In the early 1950s it was a big attraction at Bell, consistently predicting people’s behaviour in a guessing game by detecting patterns in their guesses. Only Shannon could beat it. As William Poundstone explains in How to Predict the Unpredictable, the machine’s power wasn’t down to its clever design but the fact it exploited a universal human weakness, “our inability to recognize or produce randomness”. Poundstone’s book takes up where the mind-reading machine left off, with the aim of helping everyone achieve Shannon’s guessing savvy. In other words, this book is a guide to outguessing people and computers by detecting their decision-making patterns. It’s also a tutorial in how to prevent others from anticipating your own behaviour. One realm in which readers can readily benefit by outguessing is standardised testing, since the pattern of correct answers is rarely truly random. Whether the tests are true/false or multiple-choice, and whether they are algebra quizzes or professional exams, examiners tend to make the same distribution errors. (via Harness randomness to succeed at life - physics-math - 09 September 2014 - New Scientist)

Harness randomness to succeed at life
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THE American mathematician Claude Shannon was renowned as the father of information theory. But his colleagues at Bell Labs also knew him as a unicyclist, a juggler and the designer of an electromechanical mind-reading machine. In the early 1950s it was a big attraction at Bell, consistently predicting people’s behaviour in a guessing game by detecting patterns in their guesses. Only Shannon could beat it. As William Poundstone explains in How to Predict the Unpredictable, the machine’s power wasn’t down to its clever design but the fact it exploited a universal human weakness, “our inability to recognize or produce randomness”. Poundstone’s book takes up where the mind-reading machine left off, with the aim of helping everyone achieve Shannon’s guessing savvy. In other words, this book is a guide to outguessing people and computers by detecting their decision-making patterns. It’s also a tutorial in how to prevent others from anticipating your own behaviour. One realm in which readers can readily benefit by outguessing is standardised testing, since the pattern of correct answers is rarely truly random. Whether the tests are true/false or multiple-choice, and whether they are algebra quizzes or professional exams, examiners tend to make the same distribution errors. (via Harness randomness to succeed at life - physics-math - 09 September 2014 - New Scientist)

Short film: the Magic of Consciousness

mostlysignssomeportents:

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Ed writes, “Here’s an ambitious short film I made for the Royal Institution with evolutionary psychologist Nicholas Humphrey — it explores the problems in understanding human consciousness particularly in explaining how its seemingly magical qualities arise from the physical matter of the brain.”

Read more…

(via emergentfutures)

Woman of 24 found to have no cerebellum in her brain
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DON’T mind the gap. A woman has reached the age of 24 without anyone realising she was missing a large part of her brain. The case highlights just how adaptable the organ is. The discovery was made when the woman was admitted to the Chinese PLA General Hospital of Jinan Military Area Command in Shandong Province complaining of dizziness and nausea. She told doctors she’d had problems walking steadily for most of her life, and her mother reported that she hadn’t walked until she was 7 and that her speech only became intelligible at the age of 6. Doctors did a CAT scan and immediately identified the source of the problem – her entire cerebellum was missing (see scan, below left). The space where it should be was empty of tissue. Instead it was filled with cerebrospinal fluid, which cushions the brain and provides defence against disease. The cerebellum – sometimes known as the “little brain” – is located underneath the two hemispheres. It looks different from the rest of the brain because it consists of much smaller and more compact folds of tissue. It represents about 10 per cent of the brain’s total volume but contains 50 per cent of its neurons. Although it is not unheard of to have part of your brain missing, either congenitally or from surgery, the woman joins an elite club of just nine people who are known to have lived without their entire cerebellum. A detailed description of how the disorder affects a living adult is almost non-existent, say doctors from the Chinese hospital, because most people with the condition die at a young age and the problem is only discovered on autopsy (Brain, doi.org/vh7). (via Woman of 24 found to have no cerebellum in her brain - health - 10 September 2014 - New Scientist)

Woman of 24 found to have no cerebellum in her brain
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DON’T mind the gap. A woman has reached the age of 24 without anyone realising she was missing a large part of her brain. The case highlights just how adaptable the organ is. The discovery was made when the woman was admitted to the Chinese PLA General Hospital of Jinan Military Area Command in Shandong Province complaining of dizziness and nausea. She told doctors she’d had problems walking steadily for most of her life, and her mother reported that she hadn’t walked until she was 7 and that her speech only became intelligible at the age of 6. Doctors did a CAT scan and immediately identified the source of the problem – her entire cerebellum was missing (see scan, below left). The space where it should be was empty of tissue. Instead it was filled with cerebrospinal fluid, which cushions the brain and provides defence against disease. The cerebellum – sometimes known as the “little brain” – is located underneath the two hemispheres. It looks different from the rest of the brain because it consists of much smaller and more compact folds of tissue. It represents about 10 per cent of the brain’s total volume but contains 50 per cent of its neurons. Although it is not unheard of to have part of your brain missing, either congenitally or from surgery, the woman joins an elite club of just nine people who are known to have lived without their entire cerebellum. A detailed description of how the disorder affects a living adult is almost non-existent, say doctors from the Chinese hospital, because most people with the condition die at a young age and the problem is only discovered on autopsy (Brain, doi.org/vh7). (via Woman of 24 found to have no cerebellum in her brain - health - 10 September 2014 - New Scientist)

John Wilkins - Philosophy of Evolutionary Biology
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The philosophy of biology is a subfield of philosophy of science, which deals with epistemological, metaphysical, and ethical issues in the biological and biomedical sciences. Although philosophers of science and philosophers generally have long been interested in biology (e.g., Aristotle, Descartes, and even Kant), philosophy of biology only emerged as an independent field of philosophy in the 1960s and 1970s. Philosophers of science then began paying increasing attention to biology, from the rise of Neodarwinism in the 1930s and 1940s to the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953 to more recent advances in genetic engineering. Other key ideas include the reduction of all life processes to biochemical reactions, and the incorporation of psychology into a broader neuroscien

When the internet arrived, it seemed to promise a liberation from the boredom of industrial society, a psychedelic jet-spray of information into every otherwise tedious corner of our lives. In fact, at its best, it is something else: a remarkable helper in the search for meaningful connections. But if the deep roots of boredom are in a lack of meaning, rather than a shortage of stimuli, and if there is a subtle, multilayered process by which information can give rise to meaning, then the constant flow of information to which we are becoming habituated cannot deliver on such a promise. At best, it allows us to distract ourselves with the potentially endless deferral of clicking from one link to another. Yet sooner or later we wash up downstream in some far corner of the web, wondering where the time went. The experience of being carried on these currents is quite different to the patient, unpredictable process that leads towards meaning.

The problem with too much information – Dougald Hine – Aeon

Source aeon.co

Information is perhaps the rawest material in the process out of which we arrive at meaning: an undifferentiated stream of sense and nonsense in which we go fishing for facts. But the journey from information to meaning involves more than simply filtering the signal from the noise. It is an alchemical transformation, always surprising. It takes skill, time and effort, practice and patience. No matter how experienced we become, success cannot be guaranteed. In most human societies, there have been specialists in this skill, yet it can never be the monopoly of experts, for it is also a very basic, deeply human activity, essential to our survival. If boredom has become a sickness in modern societies, this is because the knack of finding meaning is harder to come by.

The problem with too much information – Dougald Hine – Aeon

Source aeon.co

Knowledge has a point when we start to find and make connections, to weave stories out of it, stories through which we make sense of the world and our place within it. It is the difference between memorising the bus timetable for a city you will never visit, and using that timetable to explore a city in which you have just arrived. When we follow the connections – when we allow the experience of knowing to take us somewhere, accepting the risk that we will be changed along the way – knowledge can give rise to meaning. And if there is an antidote to boredom, it is not information but meaning.

The problem with too much information – Dougald Hine – Aeon

Source aeon.co